Kegel exercises, appropriately named for Dr. Arnold Kegel, refers to regular exercising of the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are shaped like a hammock and are responsible for supporting the pelvic organs. When we talk about pelvic organs, we are referring to the bladder, rectum, uterus and vaginal walls. Regular Kegel or pelvic floor exercises are useful for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and promote normal functioning of the pelvic organs.
If you have no idea how to perform Kegel exercises or think you’re doing them wrong, then you’re in good company. About 60% of women do not know how to properly exercise their pelvic floor muscles and are missing out on the benefits of this fundamental, safe, and free approach to prevent pelvic floor disorders. The best thing about Kegel exercises is that It can be done at any time and doesn’t require any special equipment. It’s a good idea to make these exercises a part of your daily routine.
Are there good reasons to perform Kegel exercises?
You will benefit from Kegel exercises if you have certain types of pelvic floor disorders like:
- Stress Urinary incontinence: leakage of urine with coughing, laughing, lifting or exercise
- Urgency Incontinence: leakage of urine when you have the urge to urinate
- Bladder Overactivity: frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Fecal Incontinence: fecal soilage
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse: dropped uterus, cervix, bladder, or vaginal wall
Steps to performing your Kegel exercises
- First of all, there is no ideal position for identifying your pelvic floor muscles. Some women are able to easily identify these muscles while laying, sitting or standing.
- Start by placing your index finger at the opening of the vaginal canal. Try to squeeze the muscles surrounding your finger at the opening of your vaginal canal.
- Pretend as if you are pulling in your finger tip into the vaginal canal with a straw. Take a deep breath and avoid moving the muscles of your thighs, buttocks or abdominal wall during your attempts. The tip of your finger should move upward toward your urethra (where you urinate) and your clitoris.
- If I can tell that you’re doing your Kegel exercises, then you’re not doing them correctly.
- If you are having trouble identifying the muscles, imagine squeezing the muscles that you use to prevent passing gas while in a public place. Also, if you can start and stop your urinary stream, then you are using the correct muscles. Do not practice your Kegel exercises while urinating as you may develop problems with emptying your bladder.
- Once you are able to correctly identify your Kegel muscles try to perform these exercises three times a day, 30 repetitions each time and hold each contraction for 5 seconds at a time.
I need extra help
If you are struggling and need help with your Kegel exercises, speak with your OBGYN during your next annual pelvic exam. Additional useful tools that can be used are small devices placed at the vaginal opening called vaginal weights or cones. When you squeeze the muscles around the opening of your vaginal canal you are able to hold the vaginal weight or cone in place which helps to exercise the pelvic floor muscles. Some patients have weakened pelvic floor muscles from childbirth or aging and would benefit from sessions with a registered Pelvic Floor physical Therapist. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist are able to work with you using special biofeedback and stimulation devices to strengthen your muscles. A referral to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist can be obtained from your OBGYN.
Regardless of your strategy, it is important to perform your exercises daily so that your pelvic muscle strength is sustained.
I am board certified in Obsetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS). I currently serve as the Medical Director of Female Pelvic Medicine for the Crozer Health Medical Group in the greater Philadelphia area. I obtained my residency training in OBGYN at the Los Angeles County+ University of Southern California Medical Center and fellowship training in FPMRS at Johns Hopkins. I am passionate about the field of Women’s Health and the treatment of pelvic floor disorders like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.